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  • Satellite Evolution

Outpost selected for NASA contract to develop Ferry to deliver cargo from ISS back to Earth

Outpost Technologies Corporation (“Outpost”), the first space company to develop a platform for returning satellites to Earth, has been selected for award of a Phase 1 SBIR Ignite Contract with NASA to develop the Cargo Ferry, an adaptation of their Earth returning Ferry satellite, to deliver cargo from space stations back to Earth. Outpost was the only awardee for the subtopic focused on rapid, reliable, and cost-effective re-entry capabilities.

The development of Outpost’s Ferry and Cargo Ferry also utilizes a NASA partnership through a Reimbursable Space Act Agreement (SAA). This partnership enables collaboration on developing NASA’s Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) to provide industry-leading payload Earth return capabilities from orbit.

Applications of the Cargo Ferry include Earth return of non-human cargo, scientific samples, small payloads, and important research. For the Cargo Ferry project Outpost will team with Nanoracks and Spaceflight in an effort to bring the technology to mission ready as quickly as possible.

“The Outpost Ferry makes prioritized Earth return of payloads possible, and with our large payload mass fraction does it for very low cost,” says Outpost Founder and CEO Jason Dunn. “Driving down the cost of Earth return could open the door to more throughput on the ISS National Lab while also enabling the broader Low-Earth orbit economy to flourish.”

The ISS has limitations on stowage capacity, requiring tough decisions by the ISS program office each time a new payload is manifested. By downmassing stowed cargo, more room is made for new science and R&D on station. Dedicated payload and cargo return is one of the few remaining items left unsolved for commercial LEO destinations (CLDs) business models to close. Companies and institutions looking to iterate quickly in the space environment need fast Earth return. As Outpost develops the Cargo Ferry it sets its sights on a future human rated version that may one day provide a solution for emergency evacuations from commercial space stations.

The Cargo Ferry will be smaller than fixed heat shield systems and be more suitable to CLDs which are expected to be smaller than ISS. It will be scalable to heavier cargo with less of a direct increase in mass and volume than a fixed heat shield, as the heat shield is collapsed for all mission phases until the very final entry. This means it would take up less volume during launch to LEO, and while stored at CLD.


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